The Practical Keyworder - Babies and Baby Tomatoes
First let me say one thing - there is no such thing as "bad" keywording or bad keywords. Keywords are only bad if they do not optimize your search results for the unique search engine that is retrieving your images for customers.
Keywords are the "key" that fits the lock of a particular search engine - they are "good" if the keywords are applied with an understanding of how the search engine works, and they are "bad" if they are applied without considering the qualities of the search engine that you are working with.
In previous articles I've compared the Dreamstime search engine to various traditional kinds of search engines. Take for example, concept searching The Practical Keyworder - Concepts: One thing leads to another I've talked about library catalogs as traditional search engines that use trees, hierarchies and related/narrow terms to find information. Replicating this model with your own concept keywords - which are highly relevant to stock images - improves your search results. Traditional catalogs also use a controlled vocabulary and a thesaurus - so using a thesaurus to add meaningful, related terms is useful.
Other functions that are supported by catalogs, but not within the Dreamstime search engine are multi-word terms, ambiguous terms, root words, and phrases.
In last week's article there was a lively discussion about using multi-word terms to describe images. I was looking for pictures of babies and I came up with pictures of baby tomatoes (as well as many other images that used the word baby as a phrase, or modifier, for a term). I said that it was a bad idea to use multi-word terms in your keyword set in general, but that using a term like "copy space" was OK. Why? Well, in the case of "baby tomatoes", the two terms "baby" and "tomato" are both common and meaningful by themselves, and when they are split up by this particular search engine, they mean something different as single terms. This creates many irrelevant results and it will cause frustration for customers as they search they site. The word "copy", on the other hand, is an uncommon search term and is almost meaningless by itself. Try this experiment: search for the word "copy" (sorted by relevancy-ascending); now search for "copy space" - almost exactly the same images come up! Do the same with the term "baby". Even sorting by relevancy, vegetables, animals and many other less relevant things come up on the first and second pages. "Baby tomatoes" works well - but searches for "baby" are diluted.
So as a general rule: Look at multi-word keywords as separate words - if they are meaningful as separate terms, and if the term means something very different separately than it does as together, don't use it as a multi-word term. It isn't wrong or bad to do so - it just isn't optimal for this search engine. Some tricks - try substituting a single word term whenever possible (use a dictinary or thesaurus) - instead of "old fashioned", use "retro", "antique" or "obsolete". Instead of "environmental issues", use several, more specific, single terms like "recyling" or "sustainability".
I'll tackle the issues of ambiguous terms, root words, and phrases next week.